Give Your Kids Time to Play This Summer

One child spends her summer participating in an organized sports league and attending music lessons. Her neighbor spends his time climbing trees, finger painting, and kicking a soccer ball around with other kids on the block. Which child is participating in the best activities?

There isn't an easy answer. Both types of play are important for a child's development. Structured activities, such as a summer baseball league, are rewarding experiences that can teach valuable skills and lessons, such as the importance of teamwork and good sportsmanship. But child-driven play has many benefits as well, including promoting development in:

  • Creativity and imagination

  • Dexterity

  • Physical activity

  • Decision-making

  • Leadership  and group skills

  • Cognitive and emotional strength

  • Sharing

  • Negotiation and conflict resolution

Busy Schedules Can Cause Stress

Some children thrive on a busy schedule. But others become exhausted or burned out. Over time, too much stress on a child can lead to headaches, stomach problems, and other health problems.

Parents, too, are negatively affected by too-busy schedules. They may become overstressed, too, and start feeling disconnected from their children. 

Make Time for Free Play

If your children seem stressed out, you may want to cut back on their structured activities this summer.

Here are some ways to slow down:

  • Limit your children to one or two structured activities of their choice.

  • Allow time each day for free play. Limit TV, computer, and video games to no more than one or two hours a day.

  • Make family time a priority. Plan family events—such as weekly bike rides or game nights—first, before you schedule time for ballet lessons or other activities.

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